Skip to main content

Full text of "Why North Carolina claims the designer of the "Stars and Bars," first flag of the confederacy"

See other formats




Of ttjE 

Unibersittp of i^ortfj Carolina 

tE^t's; book teas presentcb 


o -> 






This book must not be 
taken from the Library 

Why II or th Carolina Claims the Designer 

of the 
"Stars and Bars", First Flag of the Confederacy ■ . 
Mrs. Fannie Ransom Williams, newt on, «.B. ) 

( By 

Before giving the many reasons why Worth Carolina claims that 
Orren Randolph Smith was the designer of the "Stars and Bars", the 
first flag selected by the Provisional Congress at Montgomery, Alabama, 
in 1861, it seems but fitting that something should be known of the 
•history of the man to whom this honor is due. 

Orren Randolph Smith was born in that good old county of Warren, 
a county that had given to the "Old North State" so many sons of 
illustrious fame, and whose women have won for themselves honor and 
glory for their education, high Christian character and noble Southern 
instincts. Born in 1827, Mr. Smitx. d barely reached his twentieth 
year when he volunteered in Company H, First North Carolina Volunteers, 
and went forth to fight Mexico in behalf of his country. In this 
war he served under General Taylor with great ability. When hostilities 
closed he continued in the United States Army, serving as Captain in 
the Utah troubles in 1857-58 under that gallant leader, and later noted 
Confederate general, Albert Sidney Johnson. When the State of North 
Carolina seceded in 1861 Orren Randolph Smith, true to his soldierly 
instinct, volunteered in Company B. 2nd N. C. battalion, and later, his 
arm having been so injured as to prevent his handling a gun efficiently, 
he was promoted to major in the Commissary Department of the Confed- 
eracy with headquarters at Marion, S. C. Such was the man, and such 
his knowledge of what the flag of his country meant to a soldier, whom 
North Carolina has shown to the world as the designer of the "First Flag 
of the Confederate States of America," 

Like all Confederate soldiers, when the flag they loved was furled 
v forever as a national flag, and became one of sweet memories only, Mr. 

Smith talked not for many years of what he had done regarding the 
flag. Bitter thoughts and deepest sorrows take tine to heal, and the 
Confederate soldier spoke not of the glories of those hard fought 
years until time had passed, and the South began again to come into 
its own. Then we began to hear by degrees of the many things that 
had lain hidden. 

In an address that Mr. Smith had intended to deliver on this 
occasion when the flag committee of the North Carolina Division U. C. V. 
read its report on who was the designer of the Stars and Bars, and 
at which time he had intended to present a large silk replica of the 
original to his old comrades in arms, we find the reasons given for 
the designing of the flag. The writer, however, was never permitted 
to tell his own story, for the Angel of Death calls him, but the story 
remained intact, and from it we quote Mr. Smith's own words. He says: 
"Having been with Taylor in 1846 in that war that gave the Southwest 
from the Rio Grande to the Pacific to the United States, and with 
Albert Sidney Johnston in Utah in 1858, I knew that a soldier's flag 
should have the deepest, truest significance, not be simply a blurring 
of bright colors. His flag is his inspiration. It stands for Home, 
Kindred and Country. It had so much meaning to me that I hoped that 
my flag would tell the story to all who saw it. So when I saw the 
notice (from the Flag Committee of Congress at Montgomery) of "Flag 
Wanted" I was ready. In 1861 'I was living in Louisburg, II. C. and I 
went to my old friend Miss Becky Murphy, now Mrs. W. B. Winborne of 
Wilson, IT. C., and asked her to put the stitches in a little flag for me, 
and I tore the Bars and cut the Stars while she sewed. 

The idea of my flag I took from the Trinity — Three in One — . The 
three bars were the Church, State and Press. Red represented State, 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 



Legislative, Judiciary and Executive; White for Church, Father, Son 
and Holy Ghost; Red for Press, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Conscience, 
Liberty of Press, all bound together by a field of blue, the heavens 
over all, bearing a star for each State in the Confederacy. The seven 
white stars, all the same size, were placed in a circle, showing that 
each State had equal Rights and Privileges, irrespective of size or 
population. The circle having neither head nor foot signified 'You 
defend me, and I'll protect you'". 

This description of the flag together with Mr. Smith's reasons 
for each were later embodied in an affidavit, prepared from the 
manuscript in his own handwriting, and filed with "the many others, 
submitted to various committees appointed to investigate his claims as 
designer of the first Confederate flag. 

In the statement above given we find Mr. Smith telling of his 
visit to Miss Murphy, later Mrs. Winborne, and we will now see what 
Mrs. Winborne has to say in her affidavit on the subject, as svrorn 
to by her on June 30, 1913. She swears - "When the War Between the 
States began I was living at my old home, Louisburg, North Carolina, 
the Widow of Mr. George Watson. And since I have been asked to tell 
all I know of the designing and making of the Confederate flag, known 
as the Stars and Bars, I consider it both duty and privilege to make 
this affidavit so that in the days to come there may be no doubt 
as to the identity of the man who designed the Stars and Bars, the 
first flag of the Confederate States of America. Early in 1861, the 
second week in February, my old friend, Orren Randolph Smith, brought 
me some material and asked me to make him a flag and that he would 
tell me exactly how to do it, for the Confederacy had decided that 
a new flag was to be used in the War for States Rights, and a Committee 
had been appointed to decide on a model, and this committee had 

advertised for models, and he, Mr. Smith, wanted to have this little 
flag of his own design to send as a model. 

The design that I copied was composed of a blue field and three 
stripes, one white between two red, and on the blue field, which 
extended across the end of the white and one red stripe, I sewed 
seven white stars in a circle, a star for each state that up to 
that time had seceded. 

This small flag was about a foot long. The design was made by 
Orren Randolph Smith in Louis burg, North Carolina, and the flag was 
made by me under his direction, and when finished was packed and sent 
to Montgomery, Alabama, and was later the design, selected without 
any alterations by the Committee, as all the world knows, and everywhere 
it is honored and treated with reverence. As soon as Mr. Smith 
learned the design was accepted as the flag of "The Confederate States 
of America", the day following, he again came to me and brought 
materials to make a large flag in accordance with his model, and with 
my assistance a large flag, identical in every particular with the 
small model sent to Montgomery, was made. We enjoyed our work, talk- 
ing and laughing as old friends do when together and- interested in 
their work, and then we had no idea of the terrible struggle that 
was coming, nor of the fierce fighting that was to be done under 
and for this flag. We sewed and worked on the large flag as hard as 
we could and did not get it finished by Saturday night, so we completed 
it on Sunday, March 17, 1861, and early Monday morning Mr. Smith 
raised this flag in Louisburg, it being the first Confederate flag 
ever displayed in North Carolina, and two months before the Old North 
State left the Union. 

Over the flag Mr. Smith had floating to the breeze a long blue 
pennant, like an admiral's pennant on his ship when homeward bound, 

and on this pennant were nine white stars. He said that though North 
Carolina was still in the Union she was homeward hound. This was 
the first significant straw that showed which way the wind was blowing." 

Such were the statements made by the designer of the flag model, 
Oren Randolph Smith, and his principal assistant, Rebecca Murphy 
Winborne . 

In all historical questions, and especially when the question 
has been challenged, it is wise that the true side of that question 
be known to all those claiming it. Such is the question as to the 
Designer of the Stars and Bars, the first flag of the Confederacy. 

North Carolina has made its claim to this honor in the name of 
Orren Randolph Smith of Louisburg. All claims and proof of this 
claim were laid before the four Confederate organizations of this 
country and each appointed a committee to investigate the matter, 
and three, the United Confederate Veterans, the Sons of Confederate 
Veterans, and the Confederated Memorial Association, gave the honor 
to North Carolina and named Orren Randolph Smith as the designer, 
and it was upon this decision that the fountain in honor of Mr. Smith 
was erected in Louisburg. 

But very many of the North Carolina Daughters have not seen the 
proof on which these organizations acted. The writer has seen it in 
the original, which is in the files of the Historical Association Library 
in Raleigh. 

In conceding the proof of any historical question, three things 
should be considered: first, the testimony of the claimant to an 
honor and his direct connection with it; second, proof of those 
directly connected with the subject, other than the claimant; and 
third, the opinion regarding the matter by neighbors and friends. 

Answering the first, we have the written statement of Major Smith 


himself , that when lie saw a flag design for the Confederacy advertised 
he at once conceived the idea of the Stars and Bars design, that he 
modeled it as nearly as possible after the Stars and Stripes, for he 
loved and had fought under its folds, but he was a rank secessionist. 
He tells of taking the material e£ to Miss Rebecca Murphy, afterwards 
Mrs. Y/inborne, and getting her to make a small flag according to his 
idea, of sending this small flag to Montgomery sometime in February. 
That when he heard this design had been accepted, he went to a dry 
goods store, secured the dress goods, and again sought the aid of 
Mrs. Murphy-Winborne and had a large flag of the identical design 
made and raised in Louisburg on March 18, 1861. In the original 
design of the Stars and Bars Major Smith placed seven stars on the 
blue field, for then only seven states had seceded, but he tells us 
he said "A new star should be added as each new state secedes." 
Such in brief is Major Smith's sworn statement, omitting description 
and reasons for which we have no space. 

Our second proof lies in the affidavit of Mrs. Rebecca Murphy-Winborn 
which tells very clearly how Major Smith came and asked her to make 
the small flag according to his design, how she did so as he sat by, 
and how said flag was sent by mail to Montgomery along the first of 
February. She also tells of Major Smith's bringing her the goods 
to make the large flag as soon as he heard the design had been chosen. 
How she sev/ed day and night even on Sunday so as to complete it for 
the raising on Monday morning March 18, 1861 in Louisburg. 

We have the sworn affidavit of Mrs. Jasper Suggs of Tarboro 
that she saw Mrs. Rebecca Murphy Winborne make the small design for 
Maj. Smith, that she knew it was sent to Montgomery, and that the 
Stars and Bars selected was exactly Major Smith's design, and that 
she also saw Mrs. Winborne make the large flag. 


Besides Mrs. Suggs' there are on file affidavits to the effect 
that Mrs. Winborne made the small flag from M. A. Herring, Adam 
Ball, T. S. Collins, Eugene T. Cooke, H. D. Edgerton, P. H. Edgerton, 
and W. H. H. Hill. The proof that the large flag raised in March 
1861 was like the small one affidavits were made by Mrs. J. A. Jones, 
W. P. Montgomery, Sarah E. Place, and W. H. Pleasants. 

The following persons certify that the small flag was sent to 
Montgomery the second week in February — M. A. Herring, Mrs. J. A. Jones, 
Adam Ball, T. S. Collins and the others who certified that Mrs. 
Winborne made the design. M. A. Herring also certifies that he knew 
Major Smith knew his design was accepted. 

So much for the proof that Orren Randolph Smith designed the 
Stars and Bars, that Mrs. Rebecca Murphy Winborne made it and that 
it was mailed to Montgomery the middle of February. 

How as to what became of it after reaching Montgomery. There 
is no proof of the newspaper statement that the committee to select 
the flag design designed the Stars and Bars themselves. After telling 
us of the numerous designs sent in, General Wm. P. Miles, Chairman 
of the Provisional Congress committee on the design, tells ho?/ 
the designs were divided into two classes, those resembling the 
United States flag and those of most ornate design. The report to 
Congress does not claim that the committee designed a flag, but only 
that it submitted a design. In sending in its report the committee 
tells what kind of a design they think should be selected and then says 
"The flag we submit answers all these requisites", and that flag was the 
one designed by Major Smith and made by Mrs. Winborne. In a letter 
written many years after the report to the Provisional Congress, General 
Miles states that the committee, being unable to select a design, placed 
four designs on the walls of Congress hall and let the members select 

: — ; 

the design. But the report does not say so, although this may have 
"been done. 

It would be a strange coincident that Orren Randolph Smith, 
as proven by affidavits of most worthy people, should have designed 
a flag identical with the Stars and Bars accepted, that Mrs. Winborne 
should have made up the design in cloth, that several swore they 
saw her make it, that a number knew that flag went to Montgomery 
the middle of February, that Congress selected a flag design exactly 
in every way identical with that of the North Carolina man's, and 
yet someone else designed it. Common sense shows us that either 
Major Smith did design the Stars and Bars or else all that array of 
noble North Carolina born and bred men and women deliberately perjured 
themselves by making false statements under oath. North Carolinians 
and Southern men and women of the old school were far too noble and 
high minded for that. 

In conclusion let us say that no claim was ever made that Orren 
Randolph Smith raised the first Confederate flag at Louisburg. The 
first Stars and Bars flew over the building when Congress met in 
Montgomery, Alabama, on March 4, 1861, and was raised by Miss Letitia 
Tyler, the daughter of Ex-President Tyler. 

When all proofs in the way of affidavits had been secured, this 
was presented to a committee appointed by the North Carolina Legislature 
in 1917, and on the 28th of February a bill was introduced, which 
passed both House and Senate, worded as follov/s: 

"Whereas, a Committee of the United Confederate Veterans was 
appointed in 1914, to investigate the date, origin, etc., of the First 
Flag, adopted by the Confederate States of America, and the said 
committee, after thoroughly investigating the evidence submitted, reported 


at the reiuiion, held in Richmond, Virginia, 1915, that the first 
lag known as "The Stars and Bars" was designed by the late Major 
rren Randolph Smith, of North Carolina, and that the said design 

ing transmitted to the Confederate States Congress, sitting at 
ontgomery, Alabama, was duly adopted by that body, March 4, 1861; 

and that said flag was first displayed in this state by being hoisted 
o the mast head of a flag pole in the town of Louisburg, North 
arolina, on the 13th day of March, 1861, and that a copy of the 
ame was presented on the 27th day of April, 1861, by the ladies of 

Louisburg, North Carolina, to the Franklin Rifles, commanded by 

Iapt. W. P. Green, which company was later known as Company "K," 
f the Third North Carolina Regiment; 
Now therefore, the report of the said committee of the United 
Confederate Veterans which was unanimously adopted by the United 

onfederate Veterans at Richmond, June 2nd, 1915, expresses our 
belief of the true historical facts, and the said report is endorsed 
and ratified by this General Assembly." 

Such is the clear proof that North Carolina has given to show 
her claims for Orren Randolph Smith, as designer of the first flag 
of the Confederacy. In doing so no fight is made on another, but 
when a number on sworn statement declare that any one thing has 
been done, and results tend to prove the truth of that assertion, 
as in the case of the designing and making of the model, and then 
the selection of this identical model as the first flag: of the 
Confederacy, it certainly stands to reason that the design so presented 
was the one chosen. And on this fact and these affidavits North 
Carolina claims the right of having the flag designer as one of her 
native sons. 
;/ In recognition of Orren Randolph Smith as designer of the Stars 


and Bars and also of the fact that he raised a facsimile of this 
design in his hone town of Louisburg on March 18, 1861, the North 
Carolina Division U. D. C. designed and bestowed on him a beautiful 
gold medal, and in 1923 erected a marble drinking fountain on the 
court square in Louisburg to mark the spot where the first flag of 
the Confederacy was raised in North Carolina. The Division also 
placed a beautiful monument, bearing the design of this same flag, 
over the grave of Mrs. Rebecca Murphy Winborne, thus showing to all 
future generations, that she was the Betsy Ross of the Confederacy. 

^ \\am*, m \^Jkzvm4a<j±*~ 


:*j4 ; 



1 1 





■ i